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David Schiminovich stared at a gallery of spiral galaxies as though he had never seen anything like them before. Indeed, no one had. He sat downloading the newly collected images in a narrow room overlooking a cavernous space at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In that space, the mirror for the Palomar Telescope—until the mid 1970s, the world's largest telescope—had been...
The next really big observatory won't sit on a mountaintop or out in the desert. Nor will it fly aboard a spacecraft.
Astronomers seeking the best views of the heavens have traditionally trekked to such remote outposts as the top of an extinct volcano in Hawaii or a desert in northern Chile. When they have needed to observe, say, one patch of sky over a broad range...